Michael Simmons

Omicron is on its way out

Omicron is on its way out
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Omicron peaked in England in early January, according to figures just released by the ONS. The estimates from the weekly infection survey show that cases in the UK peaked at around four million before falling. In the week ending 15 January, 1 in 20 had Covid in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and 1 in 25 in Wales.

We shouldn't be surprised by this — this is how Omicron seems to go world over. As in Gauteng, as in South Africa, as in Lambeth, as in London and now in the UK: it falls almost as fast as it rises.

Quite simply, the variant is so infectious that it quickly reaches levels of prevalence that are unsustainable because so many people have been vaccinated, infected and become immune. Another survey from the ONS shows 97 per cent of over-16s have Covid antibodies. Antibodies were highest in the old, who had the booster first and are best-covered by three jabs.

What remains to be seen is what will happen when immunity wanes. UKHSA data shows the booster begins to lose efficacy at about ten weeks after the jab. Studies suggest natural immunity might last longer, but it too fades. The latest models from Warwick (considered by Sage) say a summer Omicron surge is possible: 

[the models] show an ‘exit’ wave due to increased mixing and waning vaccine immunity. Precise timing and magnitude of this exit wave is highly dependent on both population behaviour and the scale of the current wave and cannot be predicted with any certainty.

Whether that prediction proves to be credible or not, the fact is Omicron is a very different disease. Of the models considered around Christmas, the scenarios where Omicron is 10 per cent as severe as Delta are the only ones that are remotely accurate. ONS weekly deaths are below the five-year average, hospital admissions and occupancy continue to fall and ICU levels are at their lowest since July. The winter crisis many heralded has not materialised.